Bar on Chinese toys is no childs play

Written by Varun Jaitly | New Delhi, Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2007, 05:58am hrs
India cant ban Chinese-made toys with hazardous lead content unless the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) sets stiffer norms. But theres a catch: a move like that would hit the Indian toy industry more than its Chinese counterpart.

Framing standards is not a problem for the BIS. But segments of the Indian toy industry are incapable of following superior standards at the moment because of their fragmented nature and small scale. If such standards are made mandatory, many small domestic manufacturers would have to close shop, said a government official.

As a result of WTO commitments, India cannot set more stringent standards only for imported toys.

Chinese toys were in the eye of a major controversy in the US and other markets on charges of harmful lead content. Prominent manufacturers like Mattel Inc recalled several consignments of toys sourced from China. Globally, Chinaincluding Hong Kongaccount for 76% of the toy market.

Chinese imports constitute half the Indian toy market, down from 80% a couple of years ago. The retail turnover of the Indian market was around Rs 2,500 crore in 2006-07.

The countrys toy industry, however, says the quality and safety of Indian toys are far superior to Chinese ones. In India, there is a market for every kind of product. The government should first focus on spreading awareness and see that norms already in place are met by Chinese toy exporters before framing new laws, said Paresh Chawla, president, Toy Association of India.

According to Chawla, Chinese toys sold in India should provide the address of the manufacturing unit, as required for all packaged products under the MRTP Act. That would solve the problem of imports of harmful toys from China to a large extent, he adds.